November 11, 2011

Creation of a Book Cover: String Bridge by Jessica Bell

Note: Read this blog post and learn how you can win a free signed print!

Today I'd like to share with you the process used to create the cover of String Bridge a novel by Jessica Bell, published by Lucky Press.* But first, here is a synopsis of the book:
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage––and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she's been seeking fulfillment in the wrong place.
The topics in this book include: music, performance, marriage, male-female roles within modern Greek society (the setting is Greece; the author is an Australian living in Athens, Greece), rock 'n roll, motherhood, corporate life and work, putting one's dreams aside for one's family, mother-daughter relationships, friendship and loss. Jessica Bell is a poet and musician. A collection of her poetry was released earlier this year under the title Twisted Velvet Chains. 

Simultaneously with the release of String Bridge (in ebook and paperback form) is the release of a soundtrack for the novel entitled "Melody Hill: On the Other Side." The songs are written and performed by the author. Soundmag wrote:
A piece totally dreamy, literally and figuratively, with incredible melodies and a voice kataplitiki over an acoustic guitar to inspire. Emotional flare-ups by Jessica Bell, excellent intonation and expression, and an avant garde philosophy. …a wonderful musical journey.
The first time I visited Jessica Bell's website, about a year ago, she had a mock-up of her novel's cover there, it featured a photograph of a guitar resting in a corner. In fact, the original title of her manuscript as communicated to me in September of 2010 was "Dead in the Corner of My Bedroom." Since this seemed a more likely title for a mystery novel, which String Bridge is not, discussions ensued about a new title and String Bridge was the winner. (The main character was originally named Jane and her husband was named Max. Jane and Max were changed to Melody and Alex.)

Originally, I envisioned a simple ink drawing of a guitar, very linear and spontaneous, with a line that would run from the cursive letters of the title to the guitar in the corner. Yet when I drew this it seemed a little stark considering the vivid prose and pulsating emotional life of the main character, Melody.

I then started drawing the guitar with black and blue ink. Here is the first result:

For some reason I can't remember now, I first envisioned the cover in pastels and presented this to the author. I followed it up with two more versions, essentially the same but with different cursive writing on "String Bridge."

Jessica liked the cover but asked if it would remain "sketchy." That got me to thinkin'…

But first, an explanation of process: In a book as multilayered as Jessica's, I suspected it would take some time to get the cover right. I wasn't worried because I knew as we worked through the process the right cover would emerge, like a sweet surprise, from all the back and forth and musings and questions. Here was my answer, on March 15, 2011, to her question:

"yes, the idea was that it [the guitar] would be sketchy. The whole thing is sort of Picasso-y. But, if you think it looks weird…then let's just stare at it for a week or so and see what else my brain comes up with. It's a process…  …The only other way I could see this would be with bold shapes of color for the guitar to match the background shapes. Sort of like Matisse's cut-out figures. I'll muse on it a bit…"

Jessica had no idea that Mark and I have several cut-outs by Matisse (prints!) over our couch. So, it was surprising when she sent me a link to an image by Matisse adding "How gorgeous is this piece!!!" I told her a print of it was in our home. I then tweaked the guitar sketch further:

I liked the roughness of combining a drawing with tools in Photoshop. Some of the look of the guitar above is derived at by layering multiple drawings on top of each other, treating each layer slightly differently, then combining all layers.

Then Jessica, being a very creative person herself across multiple disciplines, asked "What do you think of adding some loose pieces of paper scattered on the floor with scribbles of lyrics on them?"

I liked the idea, asked for some scribbly notes scanned and emailed to me and soon received several pieces by email including the following:

Now, as we were each, in Athens, Ohio, USA and Athens, Greece, musing on the pastel cover, Jessica sent me the following note on March 16th, always respectful of my creative process but nudging me to "get" her character of Melody a bit more accurately: "…[could you try] to alter the colour a bit. I really don't think a pastel blue fits Melody's character. Could you make the blue a little bit darker and more muddy? Do you know what I mean?"

Yes, I did! The more I was learning about the book, about Melody and about Jessica Bell, the more I saw that the pastel color was not going to fly.

Jessica also provided some color samples by emailing me the following and suggested "Cordoba Blue." (At this point you might wonder what I am even doing as a cover designer, but I liked collaborating with the author who, after all, knows her book and characters much better than I. This is something that I can do as a small publisher. There are many things I cannot do, but this I can do. I love it!)

The official color of Cordoba Blue is
color web: 71adcb
CMYK: 55/19/12/0
Pantone: 7458C
RGB: 113/172/203

I then sent this bolder version of the cover to Jessica and she "LOVE!"ed it. She also "LUUUURRRRRVE IT!!!!" (which might be an Australian thing, I'm not sure, but her enthusiasm was inspiring!)

On March 16, I wondered and sent this note to Jessica: "I am not sure about it…just went and took a nap and looked at it again… I love the body. I like your color of blue. I could take or leave the pages on the floor. I am not sure about the 'neck'….I think we are closer but not there yet!"  Jessica told me again that she was "in love with it." I agreed to stare at it more, but was preoccupied as our dog, Farley, had had major surgery on her back leg in February, required six weeks in a crate, and was still hobbling on three legs... and I was a bit stressed out. Here I am giving her some "mom love."

Jessica, Dawn (her publicist), and S. (her significant other) all loved the cover and Jessica loved the colors and guitar. I said I wanted to "fuss some more." I added black to the strings, black dots to the bridge and red to the keys and bridge. I also added a heart and added a section of darker blue at the top right of the background. The title was reduced in size slightly.

Jessica loved it and asked me to add "Tessa's" name to the bottom of the "I love Mommy" drawing so that it didn't look like the main character, Melody, had written it. I was happy to do that change. Also, I needed to change "Mommy" to "Mummy."

I made those changes and off went galleys to various parts of the world (Australia and England and India and Canada, oh my!) with the cover image above on the front.

Time went by…
Farley's leg healed…
Jessica worked on the CD…
Reviews came in!

I added Magdalena Ball's review on the front cover as well as a note about the CD, completed the rest of the cover and off to print! Here is the final version of the cover. Here is a snippet from Ms. Ball's review: "Jessica Bell's String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a hint of magic. "


Today, November 11, 2011, is Amazon Chart Rush day for String Bridge. Click on the Amazon link to purchase. If you do purchase a printed copy of the book, I will send you a free gift. A beautiful print out of the guitar image above on Epson Presentation Matte Paper, 44 lb, 8.5 x  11, signed and dated. 

Note: This offer is limited to purchases made by U.S. residents on on November 11, 2011 ONLY and is limited to the first 15 folks to email the proper Amazon receipt.

What you need to do to get your free gift...

Purchase a copy of String Bridge using the link below:

Email to me ( a copy of your receipt dated Nov. 11, 2011 with Amazon showing the purchase. Be sure that on the Amazon receipt or within the body of the email, I am informed as to your mailing address. I will mail you the signed print of the guitar within 1 month; please allow time for mail delivery.

* I am the founder and publisher of Lucky Press, a traditional publishing company. Jessica submitted her query and manuscript to Lucky Press and I was the one who made the decision to publish it. I also design covers for other publishers and self-publishing authors as well as illustrate children's books. My graphic design website is:

Learn more:
Link to String Bridge on Amazon.
Link to String Bridge on Barnes and Noble.
Buy from an independent bookstore using the following link to String BridgeShop Indie Bookstores

I have made the guitar image available on various items like T-shirts, Kindle/Nook/iPad/laptop covers, and more at

Jessica Bell's blog:
Jessica Bell's website:
Book Trailer on
Jessica's CD is available online in more than 150 on line distribution points worldwide (iTunes,, Amazon, Bleep, Juno, HMV, etc). See all points where you can buy here

November 1, 2011

Artism Autism: Our Trip to New York City

Last week was a fun, busy, and exciting week for our family. 

My son, Bryce Merlin's, artwork was accepted into the Artism Autism show at the Soho Gallery for Digital Arts, curated by Debra Hosseini. 

Artwork by many artists (from several countries) was included in the show. My husband, Mark, and I were happy to have the opportunity to drive to New York City and stay for several days. Jesse joined us, arriving from Philadelphia, so it was a family time as well. As Bryce's last (and only other) trip to NYC occurred on September 9 - 12, 2001 (see past blog post), it was extra sweet to take him there once again. (I had been back twice, in 2002 with Jesse and 2009 with Mark.)

Below is Bryce's self-portait, one of his two drawings accepted into the show.  

Bryce is very interested in hair styles and often braids his hair. For a long time, he has wanted to have his hair professionally braided. So, as a special surprise, he and I went to Attractions Hair Salon in Athens the day before our trip and Vanessa braided Bryce's hair. She took great care and we were amazed at how even and perfect Bryce's braids looked when she finished, about an hour and a half later!

We celebrated by going to the diner across the street from the hair salon for lunch. 

Later in the day we took Farley, Tyler, Jackie and Gracie to the vet's for boarding. Bryce got to see where our three dogs and one parrot stay when we are out of town and the good care they receive at "doggy camp."

The next morning (a Wednesday) Bryce, Mark and I left Athens about 7:30 a.m. for New York City. It was a cool, rainy day. It rained most of the way through Pennsylvania. But finally, about 7 p.m., just after dark, we arrived in NYC. Here is a photo of the Lincoln Tunnel. I have a bit of claustrophobia and taking photos helps to keep my mind off being in a tunnel! (Taken using the Hipstamatic app for iPhone.)

For some reason it took us twelve hours to drive from Athens to NYC. We had gone through a lot of heavy rain and made a few stops; and when we arrived on the outskirts of the city the traffic getting into the Lincoln Tunnel was really backed up. When we finally arrived in the city my mind felt a bit like the photo below!

But, I got a second wind and started see what I could take a photo of out the car window as Mark drove to the hotel. 

I thought it would be very unusual to have the following scene be one's school crossing. Where we live there are more deer crossings than school crossings.

Bryce loves the lights and signs and energy of New York City.

We arrived at Hotel Elysee and had dinner at Cellini Restaurant. Bryce discovered he likes veal parmesan, having had a sample of Mark's dinner. His own choice was spaghetti and meatballs. 

After a good night's sleep in our suite, we had breakfast at the hotel and then left on our first adventure... to see the Statue of Liberty. Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, Bryce asked to see "the most beautiful lady in America" but our plans to see the statue from the observation area at the top of the World Trade Center were not to be. Now, at last, Bryce would see Lady Liberty for himself.

But first, Bryce's first ever ride in a taxi.

There was a very long line waiting to get on the ferry. It was still raining and was also cold. Umbrellas were everywhere as we waited in a serpentine line and then went through security, an example of organized chaos as potential visitors removed belts, jewelry, cell phones and all manner of metal from their persons and made their way through metal detectors. Whew! I was glad to be through that.

Once on the ferry, Bryce pointed out that it was his first ever ride on a big boat where you could feel the rocking motion. He looked a bit worried at first, but was A-OK. I was glad I'd brought the plastic poncho that had been in my car's glove compartment for, well, for the last two cars I've owned. I had brought it along and we covered the wet seat with it and were able to sit down. We were on the top of the three-deck ferry.

Here she is, coming into view!

Even with the rain and the cold and the mist, she was magnificent! As it turned out, the next day, October 28, 2011, was the Statue of Liberty's 125th birthday.

After our ferry ride, we were ready for hot coffee and lunch. So it was back into a taxi and on to Katz's Delicatessen. Mark has been to New York many times and knows the best places to eat!

Bryce ordered a soft salami sandwich with Swiss cheese. He liked it when the owner stopped by, asked where we were from, and explained that the deli had been founded in 1888.

Bryce noticed the salami hanging on the wall and thought we should purchase one to bring home for our Pekingese, Tyler. I told him we couldn't but that he could take a photo of the salami, so I handed him my camera and here is the result...

We knew that Jesse would be arriving soon, so called and asked him if we could bring a sandwich back to the hotel for him too. While it was being made, Bryce and I enjoyed splitting a piece of New York cheesecake. Yummy!

It was wonderful to see Jesse! We had a good visit, a rest and shower and then it was off to the Soho Gallery for Digital Arts. Here is a photo of Jesse and Bryce outside the entrance. The sign says "ARS Spectrum: The Artistic Autistic." It was to be a four-day event, though we were only able to stay for two days. The artwork will be up until November 5th.

Inside the gallery we saw the many large video screens which displayed artwork in a rotating fashion; about every several minutes a new piece of art would appear on the screen. Most of the works (prints) were priced at $95, with half going to the artist and half going to benefit a school for children with autism. John Ordover is the owner of the gallery.

Debra Hosseini and Bryce at the opening night of the Artism Autism show at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Arts. Debra is also the author of "The Art of Autism" (see cover below), which is available on Amazon or from A second edition of the book will be available soon and some of Bryce's work will be included!

FYI: Debra's son, Kevin Hosseini is a prolific painter who has been featured in film, newspaper and art books. His art is on display in many venues across the United States. In April 2011, Kevin was part of a 
Neurodiversity Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art of the Ukraine. 

The photo below shows another work of Bryce's that appeared in the show. The gallery walls were white, but the lighting was subdued and I did not use a flash.

The photo below is of Bryce and his stepdad, Mark Williams.

Here is Bryce's self-portrait in the show.

Here is Joel Anderson's drawing of the Statue of Liberty.

After the show, we went to Gallagher's NY Prime Steakhouse. Here is a whole lot of steak, aging...

It was great being together at the restaurant, but our meal would have been more enjoyable if we hadn't been seated next to a large party of businessmen (and one woman) celebrating some event with many toasts and loud talking and laughing as they yelled from one end of the long table to another. (sigh) It was hard for me to hear, for us to hear, and I imagine also for Bryce as he wears a hearing aid that makes all sound come in at the same level. 

Here are the staff… Gallagher's has been around since 1927 and the walls are covered with photographs.

Here is Jesse in the photo below; it was wonderful being together. (Jesse is the developer for Sidecar and is also on the continuing education faculty of Moore College of Art & Design and has been active in the Philly music scene as a DJ for several years and as a founding member of Stakeout Music.)

Below is a photo taken that evening after dinner, and you can see it is still cloudy and rainy.

We returned to our hotel and watched exciting Game 6 of the World Series.

The next day, Friday, we headed off to see the de Kooning exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Bryce was able to see the de Kooning exhibit and the wonderful, expressive colors, lines and shapes within his work. It was tiring for him, though, and Mark sat with him in view of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World, while Jesse and I explored the fifth floor galleries.

It was wonderful to walk with Jesse through rooms full of famous paintings I'd previously seen only in books and prints: Picasso, Leger, Hopper, Wyeth, Van Gogh…

We only touched the surface of the masterpieces there for all to see. It was bittersweet to walk out when part of me wanted to stay there all day just taking it all in. But I told myself MoMa will be there when I return for a more leisurely stroll through her many wonderful galleries. If you'd like to explore the museum, but can't make it to New York, check out this link for a virtual tour.

For lunch, Mark took us to a wonderful restaurant, Papillon. Bryce enjoyed a big bowl of macaroni and cheese and I caught his Impressionistic-like reflection in a foiled mirror. The white lines at the top are fake spider webs, which were part of the decorations for Halloween.

After lunch, we returned to the hotel for a rest, then made our way to SoHo for dinner and a performance event at SGDA gallery. 

We had a lovely dinner at Blue Ribbon. The table was small for the four of us, but the service, atmosphere, and food were all wonderful. Bryce enjoyed the ribs and chicken wing appetizers that he was able to grill over a flame right at the table. I loved the Shrimp Provencal. (Here's their menu.)

"Brothers, chefs and restaurateurs Bruce and Eric  Bromberg have set culinary trends and ignited passions for almost 20 years, most notably as founders and guiding forces behind the Blue Ribbon Restaurants Group. In their early twenties, Bruce and Eric Bromberg each attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, graduating with the highest honors with Eric holding the distinction of being the first American to teach classes at the prestigious school."

After dinner, we walked down the street to the gallery. Keri Bowers of Normal Films (co-director with Taylor Cross of the film "Normal People Scare Me") organizes performances by talented children and adults on the autism spectrum. We went downstairs in the gallery to a performance area and were happy to have the opportunity to see talents beyond visual arts as folks on the autism spectrum performed. There were comedians, pianists, singers… Sybelle Silverphoenix sang "Bad Reputation"; Taylor Cross performed a wonderful monologue. Amy Gravino (who you will see in the film link above) recently attained her master's degree, and she read a short story about a first french kiss. It was an outstanding piece of writing. In the film (from a few years ago) she stated she wanted to be a writer… Amy, you really are a very good writer! Tom Ryan played the guitar and sang two original songs: the first was called "The Hard Way." The second, I didn't catch the title, but as Mark pointed out later, if it was professionally produced it would be at the top of the charts. I agree!

The sound system was challenging and there were more people than chairs, but the latter is a good thing and I'm sure the former will be improved upon. I had tears in my eyes more than once and when I looked at Bryce he was intently watching and listening to everything. 

We returned to our hotel with many happy memories of the day and evening…and to watch the last game in the World Series before heading off to dreamland and the next day's drive back to Ohio. But first, a word from the meteorologist. A BIG  SNOW STORM was headed our way! We said our goodbyes to Jesse (sigh and sniffle on my part) and the next morning quickly packed up and headed out. Leaving New York City was easier than getting in had been a few days earlier, and soon we were in New Jersey and then Pennsylvania and here is what it looked like on our drive through Pennsylvania.

When one has their own business, albeit a small business (Lucky Press), snafus come up even while you're on vacation. That's why iPhones and iPads were invented. I was able to check email, check problems on Amazon, check in with an anxious author who was looking forward to a Nov. 1st book launch and finding Amazon had the wrong cover image up!… I was able to check the GPS to see where on the PA turnpike our car was… and able to take the photo below and upload it to Facebook. (I was doing all these fun things while Mark was driving. He's from Cleveland and is not fazed by snowy weather. I, on the other hand, spent 17 years in Florida and am not happy to drive in the snow.)

Are you curious about Lucky Press's book launch, which takes place TODAY? Here is a link for more information on Jessica Bell's wonderful book (and accompanying CD soundtrack), String Bridge.

We were happy to enter Ohio and find the sun shining through clouds, the trees in the last glorious colors of autumn and a light rain starting as we made our way to Marietta where we stopped for dinner. Then it was past the lights of various power plants on Rt 7 as we headed to Athens. Of course, as soon as we were near our fair city, home of Ohio University, we noticed several police cars pulling people over… Lucky for me (as I was now driving) I was utilizing the cruise control feature on Mark's car!